I always thought that ‘stick-jaw’ was toffee. I was right, but only partially. It seems that before it was toffee, stick-jaw was a pudding. Not a delicious pudding, but a pudding whose sole purpose was to occupy space in the digestive system and provide calories – especially to those living in institutions of various kinds. It was apparently ranked alongside scrap or resurrection pie as the bane of the nineteenth century boarding schoolboy’s life.
The dictionary describes stick-jaw as “a pudding or sweetmeat difficult of mastication’. To a schoolboy it was “pudding crammed down our throats to take away our appetite for the meat to follow.”
Sometimes it was a simple boiled pudding with the solidity and flavourlessness that only large amounts of suet and completely absent fruit (sugar, butter, eggs, spices) can provide. Often, like resurrection pie, stick-jaw pudding was made from scraps – in this case the scraps of bread accumulated over the course of the week.
Bread pudding, properly made, has a lot going for it of course. Here is a nice version from The Accomplished Housekeeper, and Universal Cook (1797), by T. Williams
A Bread Pudding.
Boil half a pint of milk with a little cinnamon, four eggs well beaten, the rind of a lemon grated, half a pound of suet chopped fine, and as much bread as necessary. Pour your milk on the bread and suet, keep mixing it until ocld, then put in the lemon peel, the eggs, a little sugar, and some nutmeg grated find. You may either boil or bake this pudding.
Quotation for the Day.
Books cannot always please, howver good;
Minds are not ever craving for their food.
George Crabbe (1754-1832), The Borough Schools.